How matter moves through my Kansas backyard
Questions about Palms
This Palm Sunday, learn a little more about Palms!
Children’s Book Recommendations for Black History Month
A picture book for young readers, a chapter book for middle grade children, and a graphic memoir/historical fiction in celebration of Black History Month
4 Short Advent Reflections
“I Saw a Stable”I saw a stable, low and very bare,A little child in a manger.The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care,To men He was a stranger.The safety of the world was lying there,And the world’s danger.
Much of Coleridge’s poetry has been set to music, including this poem. You can listen to it here:
From the youngest:
I like a sketch comedy show called Studio C. It’s a good fit for kids but my whole family likes it. They made a Christmas Compilation. It’s an hour long, but you can watch just one skit when you need a little laugh.
From the middle child:
Ever since I was little, my favorite holiday has been Christmas. I’m simply enamored by the sparkling lights and the excitement in the atmosphere. But I struggle with the arrival of the holiday. For me, the buildup is almost better than the actual day! Because when the day comes, I’m struck by the fact that I must wait another year for the excitement and cheer of waiting. The gifts are not my favorite part. It’s the sense of togetherness I gain from being excited for something with other people! I guess that makes Advent my favorite time of year, even more than Christmas!
And from the oldest:
A favorite part of this holiday, for me, is its fascinating cultural history. From its early beginnings as a way to absorb and de-paganize solstice festivals to Charles Dickens nearly single-handedly bringing it back into vogue, Christmas has had its ups and downs.
To me, the most humorous part of Christmas’s long history is Oliver Cromwell’s–Lord Protector, commander of the New Model Army, and all around most puritan of Puritans–War on Christmas. Now, it technically is a little facetious to say that Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas. What actually happened was that the extremely Protestant Roundhead faction (and I mean Protestant in the “Witchfinder General”/“Popish plot” kind of way) beat the monarchists in the English Civil War. Suddenly, real, classic Puritanism in its most fun-hating form takes control of the country, and Cromwell, their leader, appoints himself dictator and begins a war with Ireland that basically amounts to an attempted genocide, executes the king, and crushes a Scottish rebellion, but more important for our story, he implements a series of extremely harsh restrictions on celebrations and veneration of saints. Basically, he sees the myriad celebrations and feasting held in honor of saints, the largest among them being Christmas, and he, because most of England was seeing Catholics in the shadows and Frenchmen in the walls, declared the holiday to be “pagan” and “popish.” He banned reverie and celebration, passing an ordinance that people should treat December generally and Christmas in particular “with the more solemn humiliation because it may call to remembrance our sins, and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this feast, pretending the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights.” (You do celebrate Christmas this way, right?) This deeply angered the public, triggering a weeks-long period of pro-Christmas rioting/general merriment that Cromwell was unable to control. Eventually, Cromwell would go on to die, have his body be dug up, hanged at Tyburn, and then beheaded, his decapitated head eventually stuck on a stake in front of Westminster Hall, a harsh punishment even for this true enemy of Christmas.
All in all, an anecdote in the history that reminds us that this wondrous season hasn’t always been Coke polar bears and mall Santas. It combines a few of my favorite historical topics: weird Puritans, anti-governmental rioting, and of course, Christmas!
How to prevent falls with a Parmesan cheese container
This year, we’ve been saving our cylindrical, lidded containers, like the kind nutritional yeast, seasoning salt, or grated Parmesan cheese comes in to build ice-melt shakers.
Falls on ice and snow are a major cause of injury in the winter—which means hospital visits, hospital bills, and, often, physical therapy. You already walk like a penguin, but you can decrease the chance of a fall by keeping a shaker full of pet-friendly ice melt or salt/sand or salt/kitty litter (non-clay based so it doesn’t melt into a goopy mess) mix in a cup holder in your car.
When you swing your door open, take a moment to look to see if you’re about to step into a slick patch. (I drive a minivan and so keep one in a cup holder by each door so the kids can step out safely too.) If you have a long haul across a parking lot or if you expect ice to arrive while you’re inside, take it with you to make your trip back to your care safer.
Once you’ve made an ice melt shaker for yourself, use the next canister you empty to build one for your neighborhood sharing box or free little pantry. This is an easy way to take care of your neighbors.
What is Advent? (8:07)
The chronological year starts on New Year’s Day, on January 1. But, for many Christians around the world, Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year. Keeping our calendars organized around Jesus’ life is one way to keep him at the center of our worship.
100 gifts that are (almost) always a hit with kids
I’m not a recreational shopper typically, but I enjoy choosing gifts from my loved ones that they will enjoy. It’s a chance to think about them more deeply and a reminder to pay attention to what brings them pleasure. For kids, especially if you live far from them, this can be hard. Here is my go-to list for fun presents to send to kids. Of course, it’s best if you select what the children in your life have shown you that they love, and you should know that the adults who spend time with them will appreciate it too; no one wants to give a gift that will feel like a burden. Here are our ideas, and we’d love to hear yours!
- construction paper
- scissors with funky edges
- glue sticks of different colors
- scented crayons or markers
- high-end colored pencils
- art pencils and a high quality eraser
- gel pens or Sharpies
- an art easel
- sketch books of various sizes
- a satchel for carrying art supplies
- cannisters for art supplies
- an electric pencil sharpener
- a high quality journal
- a journal with a lock and key
- a coin counting piggy bank
- a ceramic bank of a favorite animal
- a small safe
- a lockbox with a key
- a fireproof envelope for special documents
- a photo album with pictures of them
- a time capsule for them to make
- a time capsule with things about them inside
- fuzzy socks
- funny socks
- new mittens with clips to hang them on their coat
- gloves that can work with a touch screen
- long johns or footie pajamas
- a body pillow or a boyfriend pillow
- a bean bag chair
- a book lamp
- a handcrank flashlight
- a handcrank radio
- a water bottle, mug, thermos, or travel mug
- fruit leather
- dehydrated strawberries or raspberries
- cheddar cheese or caramel popcorn
- snack food from another country
- movie theater sized boxes of candy
- walkie talkies
- a tent
- a hammock
- a canteen
- a sleeping bag
- a humidifier that uses essential oils, plus some oils
- nail polish
- Working Hands hand cream
- mud masks
- lip gloss
- lip balm
- shaving supplies
- a roll of quarters to use in vending machines
- a monogrammed apron
- a kid-sized suitcase
- a wallet
- a purse
- a magazine subscription
- fancy stationary
- post card stamps
- hard-to-find candies or sodas
- vegan beef jerky
- an age-appropriate cookbook
- an address book filled out with addresses you know they will want
- a perpetual calendar where they can write birthdays of friends
- a pop socket
- a magnetic phone mount (for those old enough to drive)
- a power bank
- a very fancy bookmark
- Stretch Armstrong and his dog Fetch Armstrong
- the book that won this year’s Caldecott, Newberry, Coretta Scott King, Batchelder (for foreign language book translated into English), Geisel Medal, Belpre Medal, Odyssey, Hornbook, Ezra Jack Keats, Charlotte Zolotow, or Hornbook awards
- a pop-up tunnel for use inside
- a swing
- a “flexible flyer” style sled
- a red runner sled
- a toboggan
- a snow tube sled
- a record player with records
- the board game that won this year’s Game of the Year
- retro games for their current game system
- Rubik’s cube
- Dutch Blitz
- Parcheesi or another classic game they don’t have
- Uno or, if they already have it, Skip Bo or Duo
- a small electric blanket
- a water bottle or rice bag that you heat and put in your bed
- new sheets with their favorite characters on them
- a houseplant
- a birdhouse, bird feeder with food or a suet feeder, or bird bath
- a bat house
- a new soccer or basketball with air pump, if they don’t already have one
- a yoga ball or a yoga mat
- a fun night light
- an alarm clock
- a new percussion instrument, like jingle bells or claves or a woodblock or hand drums
- unusual teas and a tea strainer
- spice mixes for popcorn
- a pocketknife, Swiss army knife, or leatherman
- a microscope
- a telescope
Advent People: A Holy Family
Children’s Time: Add some salt!
In this children’s time, we explore what Jesus might have meant said, ” “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.'” Expect to learn some new facts about salt–and a method for working through metaphors and similes that children can start to practice on their own.
Proverbs has a lot of humor in it. Here are some of my favorites!